Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lobster Recipes

Here are the recipes that I promised the students of my recent cooking class.

Determining Gender of a Lobster

We started the class by examining a male and a female side by side. The tail of the male is comparatively more narrow than that of the female: the sides of the female's tail flare out at almost a 45-degree angle while the sides of the male's tail are nearly vertical. The female uses the extra room under her tail to carry her eggs. Flipping the lobsters over, it is easy to check the set of swimmerets closest to the abdomen. Hers are soft and feathery, his are stiff and shell-like. I leave the obvious analogies to the reader, not that half the class didn't start spouting them out for everyone to hear.

Females are desirable for their roe which turns from deep forest green to bright red on cooking. This roe is great for coloring sauces, mayonnaises, and so forth. Females are a lot rarer than males in the market for the simple reason that we throw most females back to continue furthering the lobster population.

Cooking Lobsters

I prefer to steam lobsters in a large, covered pot with a small amount of water. Chickens and pound-and-a-quarters will take about 8 minutes of steam. Ten minutes for a pound-and-a-half lobster and about 14 minutes for a two-pounder. It's generally OK if the lobster is slightly undercooked. In almost all cases, you are going to rewarm it and finish cooking it that way. Once out of the steam, the lobster should go into an ice water bath to stop it from cooking.

If you want to cut up the lobster and cook it, say by grilling or by doing a shell-on sauté, I would still steam the lobsters about four minutes to kill them and then cut them up.

Breaking Down a Lobster

Once the lobster is cooked and chilled, pull the tail off. Stick a fork, tines curved toward the top of the tail shell, into the tail meat and lever it out in a single piece using the fork. Separate the two large claws from the abdomen. Separate the large pincher and crusher claws from the "knuckles," the two joints that attach the claws to the abdomen. Twist the movable part of the pincher and crusher claws from side-to-side and remove. Using the back of a thin-bladed knife, whack the back of the claws and with a twisting motion, open the shell with the back of your knife. Pull out the meat. Check the center of the claw meat for a piece of cartilage. Using a pair of kitchen shears, open the knuckles and pull out the meat. Continue by pulling off the swimmer legs for the stock pot and open the abdomen and clean out the sand sack and the green tomalley (which clouds stock). At this point, you have a pile of shells, the tail meat, the four pieces of knuckle meat, and the meat from the two claws.

Lobster Stock

Shells from 4 lobsters
2 carrots, cut in large pieces
2 stalks celery, cut in large pieces
1 onion, cut in large pieces
green leaves of 1 leek, cut in large pieces
1 bouquet garni of parsley stems and thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 gallon water or fish fumet

Heat your oven to very hot, 450F. Add all ingredients save the water to a large roasting pan and roast in the oven, turning every few minutes, until the shells and vegetables are well roasted. Remove the shells and vegetables to a stock pot. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water or stock and pour into the stock pot. Add the remaining water or stock. Simmer for an hour or until the stock is reduced by half. Strain. Yields two quarts.

Lobster Bisque

I use rice instead of flour to thicken the bisque. I like the flavor better and it makes the soup friendly for those with gluten sensitivity, always a prime consideration in the restaurant business.

1 quart lobster stock
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 cup rice
2 cups heavy cream
salt and white pepper to taste

Bring the lobster stock and Cognac to a rolling simmer and add the rice. Cook until the rice is done and the lobster stock reduced by a quarter. Transfer to a blender and blend until the rice is smooth. Return to the heat, add the cream, rewarm, and season to taste. Yield, about 5 cups.

Mango Vanilla Dressing

This is the dressing for the lobster and mango salad below.

1 mango, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of half a lime (to taste)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (to taste)
Seeds of half a vanilla bean
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Blend mango with vinegar until well puréed. Add lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, vanilla bean and blend to mix. With blender running at high speed, drizzle in the vegetable oil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Yields 3 cups.

Lobster and Mango Salad

This is a really simple salad that we serve in a ring mold.

1 cup lobster meat, diced
1 cup mango, diced
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 stalk celery, in small dice
1/2 cup mango vanilla dressing (above)
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients. Add dressing as necessary to bind the salad and season to taste. Plate using a ring mold and garnish with baby greens.

Lobster Cakes

1 pound lobster meat, diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoons tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch white pepper
1/2 cup (or more) panko
1/2 cup (or more) mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients well. If too wet to form into cakes, add more panko. If too dry, add a little more mayo. Let stand 20 minutes. Form into four cakes. Fry in a skillet on both sides. Yields four 4-ounce cakes.

Lobster Américaine

Here is my version of the French classic. Lobster Américaine is generally served with rice.

olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
shells of two lobsters
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 shallots, in fine dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 stalks tarragon
1 bay leaf
1 quart lobster stock
reserved meat from two lobsters
2 tablespoons sweet butter

On high flame, film a large sautoir with olive oil and add the onion, carrot, celery, leek, and lobster shells. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, 6-8 minutes or until the vegetables are nicely browned. Clear away a spot on the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste caramelize for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, and shallots and cook until the garlic is fragrant.

Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and white wine, scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and lobster stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pass through a strainer and reserve the stock. Return to a small pan on medium flame. Reduce to about one and a half cups of liquid, add the lobster meat to rewarm, and swirl in the butter off the flame. Season to taste and serve immediately.

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